European Union Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Mikael Barfod. (IWN photo)

A European Union (EU) official has identified linkages between the EC$21 million given to St. Vincent and the Grenadines for improving rural roads and the EC$28 million Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM).

“The BAM programme, with its EC$28 million, cannot provide all the answers but is a timely funding opportunity available to the government to at a critical period for public finances,” European Union Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Mikael Barfod told a press briefing in Kingstown.

“It could help to jumpstart this agricultural transformation and expand the country’s production possibility frontiers. We expect that the Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with other government departments and in close collaboration with farming communities and the private sector, all together, could help to accelerate the implementation of the BAM project,” he said.

The BAM are a support package for a number of banana-exporting countries from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states to facilitate these countries’ adjustment to a new trading environment.

Barfod said the between the various EU funded initiatives in SVG goes beyond the economic leverage that is typical of transport infrastructure programmes.

He noted that agriculture, which makes up 5 per cent of SVG’s GDP, has played an important role historically in the culture and social and economic development of SVG.

“And everybody is aware of the urgent need for bringing back the days of glory in Vincentian agriculture, for the country’s economic development, the welfare of Vincentian families, for youth employment, for improved rural resources management and flood control, for better nutrition and wellness, for the hospitality industry and food stores that give preference to reliable, affordable and safe Vincentian produce,” he said.

Barfod, however, said that building competitive and sustainable agriculture and stretching investments in the sector in the specific circumstances of a small island and difficult logistics, and being vulnerable to extreme weather condition is not the easiest of tasks and this is a fact that needs to be recognised.

The BAM programmes, he said, has to do with building quality value chains for agriculture and agro-processing to quality control and export logistics.

“We need to work closer with the farming community to assist them with their demand for market certification, risk insurance, productivity through better knowledge management and crop disease control.

“We need to open more opportunities for private sector participation and asset management planning on the basis of market intelligence. We need to forge more domestic, regional and international commercial partnerships, we well,” he said.

The diplomat said the EU is aware of the government’s efforts to establish a suitable agriculture credit system and the suitability challenges of such scheme that are found in every country.